On Business

Google’s shocking announcement that it is dropping support for IE8

ie8 gets the bootOn Nov 15, 2012 Google will drop support for Internet Explorer 8, just 9 days after the U.S. election and 19 days after Microsoft releases Windows 8 and IE 10. Why? Because, with the release of Windows 8 Google expects IE8 to die with Windows XP.

This is big news for the web community and it makes me very happy! The trouble is that so many of our clients still use older versions of Internet Exploder. So with most of the web community chanting “What Would Google Do?” and picking up shovels of dirt to bury IE 8 along with the rest of the gang, I am left with a conundrum, who is going to tell our clients?

As an owner of a web development company I have experienced numerous times when I wished that we didn’t need to support older versions of Internet Explorer. I remember the glorious days reading .Net Magazine and discovering that the broader internet community was unilaterally dropping support IE 6. For those of you who don’t know, IE 6 is the scourge of human society (and IE 7 is a close second).

However, many of our clients hadn’t heard this glorious news yet, and still requested that we develop solutions that satisfied the unquenchable thirst of Internet Explorer 6. Those days are thankfully past. However, now it seems our clients are stuck with IE7. With Google discontinuing support of IE 8 it seems only natural that IE 7 will fade into oblivion, right? But by stuck I mean our clients are stuck!

So what do you think? Will Google’s decision rock our world? Or will the world remain largely the same, with late nights trying to make a perfectly designed circle fit the unforgiving squares of IE 8 and lower? Or do you think that Google should have dropped IE8? Why or why not?

On Business On Teams

Life lesson #3: What you are doing is great, now find friends who think so too

Focus on working with people who are passionate about what they are doing @rigelstpierre

I want to thank @rigelstpierre for inspiring this blog article.

It’s vitally important to have passion when you are running a business, working on projects and changing the world. Passion helps sustain us when very little else is. It’s also really important to know what inspires you. I learned this lesson the hard way. Inspiration is like the stream that brings life into your passion. I learned what it felt like to have passion dry up. There is another lesson that I’ve learned along the way as well. Surround yourself with people who are passionate about what you are doing and want to see you succeed.

I used to attend UBCO and I had this class in my third year where everyone sat at opposite sides of the room. It’s normal for people to spread out, but this was to the extreme. Everyone kept to themselves. Every once in a while I get little ideas. I don’t usually act on them, but one day, before the lecture started, I thought it would be fun to try an experiment and start a conversation with the guy at the furthest corner away from me in the classroom.

Long story short, it broke the ice in the room. What ended up happening over the course of the next few weeks was a major shift in the social dynamics of the class. An unexpected outcome was that I became a really good friend with one of the guys in the class. My new friend was disciplined, intelligent and very interested in what we were learning. Way more disciplined than I was at the time. His passion about what we were studying rubbed off on me. Looking back at my university days the subjects that I really enjoyed and still think about today were ones I shared with my friend.

A couple things happened. First my marks improved. We were both competitive and watching the other guy do well motivated both of us to do better. Second I became more passionate about what we were doing. It was way more fun writing a paper on a subject that I was actually interested in.

One of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes is “Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people.” I think what is even more enlightening about that quote was his comment preceding it.

“My model for business is the Beatles: they were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of its parts.” – Steve Jobs

He looked at four guys that when they worked together could create something better than when they worked apart. Why do you think that was? I think it was because their passion was infectious, not just because they balanced one another. The Beatles not only impacted their zeitgeist but their mark is felt in the cultures of all the generations since.

Many people are passionate about what they do. For example, a judge might be passionate about seeing justice upheld. However, is he always passionate about the cases that he is presiding over? Possibly, but not always. There is a difference between being passionate about what one does and what one is doing. My friend was passionate about what he was doing and that passion was infectious. Find people who share your passion for what you are doing and then hangout with often. You might just find that the total is greater than its parts.

On Business On Social Media

Thanks Grooveshark

Grooveshark T-shirt and stuff

Apparently writing a blog pays in t-shirts. So a few weeks ago I responded to an article written by Gizmodo (which they posted about a year ago) proclaiming that Grooveshark was done for. Obviously they got that one wrong and I wrote about why I am glad Grooveshark is alive and swimming. I mean I love Grooveshark I use it everyday. Well after writing the post I got this tweet informing me that Grooveshark wanted to thank me for writing that article and would send me a tshirt, as long as I lived in the U.S.

Two things went through my mind. I thought first that it was probably a scam and then that I don’t live in the United States. But I responded anyways. Luckily for me it was real, and the kind folks at Grooveshark were nice enough to mail me this package anyways. Which I found in my mailbox today and am stoked on.

As a founder of a tech startup myself I thought this was really cool. I don’t know if you have experienced this too, but one of the things that I have found neat about the startup culture is the strong sense of community. Most everyone I meet is open to talk about ideas, brainstorm solutions and throw together an event for nearly any reason.

This is what makes startup businesses unique. (At least some of them). When they let that culture of openness and the desire to think different permeate into a company, they create something that stands out from the crowd. They embrace open conversation and in some cases even reward it. It’s also great advertising. I wrote about Grooveshark once and now I am writing about them again. Thanks again Grooveshark.

On Leadership

What would you do if you saw a man sitting beside his car at an intersection?

Intersection | NYC by Navid Baraty on

I had to ask myself this question a couple weeks ago. Biking home I passed a man sitting beside his car at an intersection. The only thought that went through my mind was, “That’s strange for him to be parked there, it’s kind of dangerous.” As I pedal past the intersection I heard someone yelling at me, turning around I saw the man at the car gesturing at me. Screeching my brakes to a halt I spun my bike around, waited for a car to pass, and went to see what was up. Turns out that while driving his car this man, now sitting beside the road, suddenly broke out in a sweat became nauseas and pulled over. Through broken breaths he explained that he was completely disoriented, dizzy and needed help. After speaking to a 911 responder on a cell phone a police officer arrived at the scene and I was released to go. As I biked away I had this thought, why hadn’t I stopped, why did I assume he had everything taken care of? I always imagined that in moments of need I would rise to any challenge and be the hero. But I hadn’t done that, instead I had biked right past this guy without stopping.

This got me thinking, what if I needed to make decisions about what I will do before I encountered disasters, rather than hope I will do the right thing when the moment arises. So I did just that, I made a personal choice that the next time I saw someone that looked like they may be in need (even if they are not), I would stop and ask if they needed help.

Well already a few opportunities have arisen in the last week and a half. Again while biking home last week I saw a man lying beside a women sitting in a wheelchair. But this time I braked  to stop and ask if they were alright. I was quickly greeted with two laughs as the man was only adjusting something on the wheelchair. The next week while driving from a meeting I saw a man on the side of the road gesturing to the traffic. As a car drove past I spun my car around and pulled over and asked if they needed help. Turns out they did. They needed jumper cables. Luckily I had some and we were able to start their car.

The moral of the story isn’t that I am a hero. No, it’s that I’m not a hero, yet after making the decision to help first and ask later I’ve found myself responding to opportunities where I would normally have driving past. I think that my change in behaviour is interesting. It has me wondering if we are wired to act on decisions that we have already made, rather than hoping we will make the right decision in the moment. In other words, will indecision lead to inaction and vice versa. Even as I write this I can think of numerous examples where I can see this applying elsewhere, but I won’t write all those thoughts now. Instead I would love to hear your thoughts on this, have you noticed pre-decisions making a difference in your life or business? Or do you think it matters at all?

On Business On Teams

Remote teams part 2: Is it working?

Remote Teams

I like the photo above because I think it does a good job of telling the story of remote teams. Remote teams take work, and you need to be in it for the long distance. About four months ago I wrote a post about starting a remote team, I was pretty curious to see how things would go. And then things got busy, really busy. To be frank I thought creating a remote team would mean that things would get less busy. What I didn’t realize was how much communication was needed to keep everyone on the same page. I think the cliche “managing people” is a bad phrase. Instead I prefer “managing communication”, because that is what having a remote team really entails.

I kind of have a hard time delegating,… but I’m getting better at it. Taking the step to set up a remote team was really tough for me. I dragged my feet because I like being really involved in the production of everything. Just being honest here. Also, something that I love about our office is that we have a team culture. We are all in the same boat. I wanted our remote team members to feel they are apart of the team too.

4 months later you are asking, is it working? Yes it is. It did take a ton of time initially setting up clear lines of communication. But here are 3 things I have found have helped “managing communication”.

1. After a while I learned to set a regular time where I can meet via Skype with my core team members once a day. If we can’t meet for some reason we let each other know the previous day.

2. After spending tons of time communicating our core values, code practices, and naming conventions etc. I let our longest standing remote team member lead our newest team member. Now the job of passing on our culture and coding practices is largely his. So far that has worked out really well.

3. Remote teams work really well in pods. What I mean by this is that when working on a project remotely it feels natural to work with the same people during the whole project. Whereas when we are in the office we tend to pass projects on to each other at specific phases. For whatever reason remote teams work better in 2’s and 3’s. For programming I’ve found tools like github essential in this process.

If you are thinking about setting up a remote team, here’s what you need to know. It is going to take a lot of your time preparing for each work day. You need to prepare what everyone is doing. It’s not possible for a remote team member to pull you aside during the work day and ask you a question. So be ready to plan ahead. You will need to be actively thinking about communication and be really intentional with it. It’s easy to forget to book those Skype chats, but if you don’t projects could derail very quickly.

Lastly, spend a lot of time before choosing your first remote teammate or employee. I looked at well over 80 resumes before selecting a few and starting the interview process. I wanted a self-starter, someone who was eager and who I wouldn’t have to chase around or need to spend a lot of energy motivating them. So it took a while, but it was worth it because we are pleased with our new bigger (more remote) team. If you’ve been thinking about setting up a remote team, but are concerned about the unknown, I encourage you to just go for it. I was afraid too, but now I’m really glad I took the risk (at least so far).

On Companies

The Complete Guide to Understanding Kickstarter’s New Policies

kickstarter online platform to raise money for projectsRecently Kickstarter made some changes to their polices and those who had been happily using the service and enjoying the ability to raise funds for their project might have grown a little anxious wondering whether these changes would be for the better or for the worse, and how in general it might affect them. Meanwhile tech analysts and others might have been interested by these changes and why Kickstarter decided to implement them. Here we will look at the changes from both angles – what it means for you, and why Kickstarter have decided to change the rules…

The Nature of the Changes

Kickstarters new policies cover a lot of ground, but the overall idea of the move according to Kickstarter’s own site was to make users feel ‘less like they are using a shop’. In other words the changes were implemented in order to remind people that they are choosing to support projects that aren’t yet complete, that they aren’t just buying things. This presumably is to protect the buyers and the bidders and thus ensure the cogs keep turning on the site.

                Thus the changes include:

  • Creators must fill out a ‘Risk and Challenges’ section to detail the risks and challenges that they might face in the process of creating their project, and to detail while they think they are suitable for overcoming them. You have to remind users that this could still go wrong, but you will also be given a chance to fight your corner.
  • Product simulations are now no longer allowed. In other words you aren’t able to show image of your product doing things it can’t yet do. So if you’re inventing a jet pack, that means you can’t make an animation in a 3D modelling package and then show people it flying around – because that’s a little misleading. Working prototypes are fine though as long as you show the prototypes in their actual current form. Using 3D printing then and injection moulding to create working prototypes just got even more important.
  • Finally you can no longer offer multiple quantities of an item as a reward. In other words, if you are creating a car you can’t offer someone five cars if they pledge five times the amount. The reason for this is that it creates the illusion again that the person is paying for a completed object. The challenge currently is creating one instance of your project so it’s a little rich to start offering multiple copies already.

What Does it Mean?

For creators then it means making sure to spend more time coming up with your creation, and to spend lots of time thinking about the problems you might face and how you’re going to get around them. While it might seem like it means you’ll struggle more now to get people to back your projects, in the long run this is very good news for creators as it means fewer Delboys on there who might scare off potential supporters in future. Kickstarter are focussed here on building trust and that shouldn’t be underestimated…

David Harrison is a business blogger and shares his experiences through guest posting. He is a part of the team at Berkeley Sourcing group, world’s best injection molding manufacturers.

On Business On Leadership

What do cocoa beans and leadership have in common?

Cocoa Beans
photo from

I have a colleague who is passionate about chocolate. But not just passionate about consuming it, but radically passionate about where he is consuming it from. I discovered this passion one day after giving him a Mars bar. For the next two days the bar sat unopened on his desk until he could determine without a shadow of a doubt that the cocoa beans were not purchased from plantations that involved child slavery. He could not, and the chocolate was politely returned to me. An interesting conversation followed about the horrific world of child-slavery and African cocoa beans.

The thought that our everyday choices could be impacting the world around us is unnerving. As a business owner I am out there creating products, in my case it is web products, whereas you might be creating products in an entirely different space. And from my perspective the thought that is even more unnerving is that we are relying on consumers to make the ethical decisions. Are we creating a product that is ethical? Or are we making a product that makes it really easy to be unethical? Like the tasty chocolate bars fuelling child slavery. (Not all chocolate bars are made from plantations using child-slavery and Mars Bar may not use child-slavery either).

Some people don’t care about this. I’ve heard the following statement just a couple weeks ago, “First make money, then care about making the world a better place.” I wrote another post on the 10 traits of a leader, which is a summary of a talk given by Dave Olson. One of the points is that you can look around a room and see the leaders by observing where the buck stops. Who is taking responsibility for the problems and doing something about them. That is the leader. When we create products we often avoid the awkward questions and pass the responsibility onto either the consumer or the factory managers? We have the ability to empower people to make good decisions by giving them good products. However, if we aren’t taking responsibility for our product lines then we aren’t being leaders.

With the web we have a huge opportunity to use technology to empower the individual to shape one’s own self. Let’s give people more of the good choices. Let’s be leaders.

On Companies On Leadership

You can’t buy authenticity

Club Penguin Founders
Photo by

Last night was awesome. I got to sit and listen to three guys talk about their journey starting a business and keeping their values in tact. I learned how they made really important, life-altering decisions. Like how Lance, as the original animator of the game, came to the major conclusion to make all the characters in the game penguins. His reasoning? “It was easier to animate a wobble than a walk.” In all seriousness, these three guys Dave, Lance and Lane built a really cool game, Club Penguin, and a really amazing business while keeping their values in tact. I am writing this blog post as much to share their unique story with you, as for myself, just to unravel what I heard with the kinds of questions I face every day.

I want to be part of a business that holds its values highly, doesn’t care about what “normal business” is, and creates a culture where everyone is free to become better. Sitting, listening, to these guys, reminded me just how much I want that. I’m sorry, but I don’t think money is the only goal. I think making money must come secondary to humanity. Every time. These guys really knew their values, and when big decisions came they didn’t have to run numbers and sacrifice their values. They let their values decide.

How many of you have heard the phrase “business is business”. I have, sometimes it feels like I am hearing it weekly. In my opinion it’s a copout. And after hearing these three talk, I really believe it is. It is saying that we don’t need to be accountable for how we are treating people because making more money is the highest priority. It’s sad, but that disease of thinking seems to have penetrated our business culture so deeply.

The founders of Club Penguin, Lance, Lane and Dave, told a very different narrative. They spoke of how they built a company with a culture that cared about each other. It didn’t calculate shares based on numerical value, but based on a fair partnership. When they sold their company to Disney they insisted that their company continue donating a portion of their revenue. When Disney acquired Club Penguin it instantly became Disney’s largest donation department.

When things get stressful or scary we can sometimes feel like we are unqualified to make the right decision. We look around to see what others are doing and we can sacrifice our values for security. Lance Merrifield said that every bad decision he made was when it was made out of fear. Why do we think fear is a good motivator if we make bad decisions when we are afraid? Lets know our values so well that when we are afraid we can stop and ask, does this really align with my core values? Or am I doing this because everyone else is doing it this way? As the old metaphor goes, just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn’t make it a good idea.

Club Penguin is an inspiration because they demonstrate that it’s possible to build companies differently. Let’s build great companies without sacrificing our core values. Let’s change the norm of business. One day we are going to look back and money won’t matter. What will matter is our family and how we treated those around us.

On Leadership

Did you know that your body language can make you happier? I didn’t.

Happy Body LanguageLook at these characters from Star Wars. They all look so relaxed and happy, despite the fact they are taking on the Death Star. What if we could feel as relaxed and happy as they do in our stress filled lives. A new Harvard study says that we can, and it has to do with our body language. We have known for a long time that body language influences how we perceive one another. In fact 97% of communication consists of body language. But what we didn’t know was that our body language actually changes how we feel inside as well? An incredible study released by Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, shows just how much our body language can make us feel better or worse.

What Dr. Cuddy surprisingly discovered is that a change in our posture actually changes the levels of coritisol (the stress hormone) and testosterone (the dominance hormone) by a lot. After studying various subjects she found that it only takes 2 minutes of holding either a high power pose or a low power pose to change those levels dramatically. In fact maintaining a high power position for 2 minutes increased testosterone levels by 20 percent. People in low power positions experienced the opposite with testosterone decreasing by 10 percent. Not only that, but, high power people experienced about a 25% decrease in cortisol, reducing their level of stress, whereas low power people experience about a 15 percent increase making them more stressed.

Apparently when people meet in a room we naturally assume either a low power position or a high power one. So what is a high power position versus a low power position? When a person wins a race and they lift their arms and chin in the air, that’s a high power position. Whereas a low power position is when a person crosses their arm or sits folded. Basically a low power position is when a person is making themselves smaller and a high power position is when a person makes themselves bigger.

That means that people who hold high power poses actually are happier, more confident and have less stress! So I guess the lesson here is that if we are conscious of how we posture ourselves we may be surprised by the results. So before you walk into that stressful meeting take 2 minutes to stretch your arms and hold a victory pose in the washroom. When talking to people place your hands on your sides, instead of folded in front of you. You are awesome, when your body language reflects that it will make you feel awesome too.

If you have 20 minutes here’s a video of Amy Cuddy speaking about this at TEDtalks.

On Intelligence

You are not your IQ!

Einstein quote

I’m just going to straight out say it. Our test of intelligence is wrong! Not only is it wrong, but it is crippling people’s confidence for no good reason. As a society we love our heros. I love Spiderman, that guy is amazing, he’s quick witted, out-smarts his enemy and has the agility of a spider. That’s pretty cool. But spiderman is not real. We often create great stories of our real heroes too. Einstein, great guy, huge imagination and remarkably intuitive. He proposed theories 55+ years ago that modern physicists rely heavily on to explain the phenomenons they are discovering today. We are told that Einsteins IQ was around 160-180. But guess what folks. He never ever took an IQ test. So that number is as much a figment of our imagination as Spiderman’s ability to climb walls.

Like our notions of beauty, the idea of IQ has been largely brought to popular culture through Hollywood. Wait, you say, what about IQ tests and academic scores? I’m not saying that IQ tests are not valuable. However they more accurately tell us our current level of education than anything else. Most IQ tests are broken up in 5 parts. There is a grammar component, mathematics component, problem solving component, pattern recognition component and history component. Each test is organized a little different, but all of them contain those components. They are scored based on efficiency (time to solve), accuracy and subject knowledge. The last IQ test I took was while I was in University. There was a question that I was asked that I only knew because the class I had just taken earlier that year had talked about that exact scenario. I scored fairly high on the test. Which is great, it meant that education was doing its part, I was retaining what I was learning. But as an intelligence indicator it failed. Had I taken different courses I would not have known many of the questions.

As I am sure many university students do during school, I conducted personal experients (often with my classmates and professors as the primary subjects). While attending the University of British Columbia Okanagan I loved getting to know my professors. During those years they became some of my heroes, they are experts in their fields of study, passionate about learning and passionate about sharing that knowledge with others. So I would watch how they interacted with the students, how they graded them, and how they evaluated intelligence. Then I started watching the students, the way in which they portrayed themselves, and how their marks reflected that appearance. I learned very quickly that in certain classes, those that were graded by theoretical, abstract or essay style exams the marks had a direct correlation between the student/professor relationship. You can read more about some of that experience here. It was in those classes I came to the astonishing conclusion, that I could predict marks based on the professors relationship with the student.

This is a very long topic, something I am fascinated by and which I am going to write about again in the future. But if you took the time to read this I want to compel you to do something. Reevaluate the way in which you view intelligence. Do you assume doctors, engineers and programmers are more intelligent than say a hockey player? If so, why do you think that? Do you assume that a successful business person is more intelligent than a successful chef? Or a professor with a doctorate is more intelligent than a business person? Are people born with certain aptitudes or do we become what we believe we can become? Lastly, what are your thoughts on intelligence? I would love to hear them.